John Sowell1

M, #22794, b. 1780, d. 1838


Rachel Carpenter
Last Edited15 Dec 2018
     John Sowell was born in 1780 in North Carolina. He was the son of John Sowell and Mary Newton Sowell.1

     John Sowell married Rachel Carpenter in 1808.1

     In 1829, John Sowell arrived in what is now Gonzales County as a member of DeWitt's Colony.1

     John Sowell died in 18381 and was buried in Gonzales City Cemetery, Gonzales, Gonzales County, Texas.
     John and Rachel had at least seven children, all born in Davidson County, Tennessee. John Sowell's family, arrived in Gonzales in 1829 as part of DeWitt's Colony. The family first settled in the Town of Gonzales, later locating on what was then the western frontier of the colony, about six miles south the present town of Seguin, at the mouth of Sowell's Creek. He built the first cabin in present-day Seguin in 1832, locating it on Elm Springs. However, because of trouble with Indians and Mexicans, the family returned to Gonzales in 1834 and John Sowell resumed his trade as blacksmith and gunsmith. During this time Sowell made a knife for Jim Bowie that became the famous “Bowie Knife”.

     As one of the "Old Eighteen" who defended Gonzales against the Mexicans in September, 1835, he was no stranger to war. He and his brothers William, Lewis and Newton, had all served in the Indian wars and the War of 1812. They were in the battles of Tippecanoe, Horseshoe Bend, Mackinaw Island and at New Orleans where Andrew Jackson defeated the British. Arms were hard to procure, therefore John Sowell, being a gunsmith, was taken from the ranks to build and repair guns.

     During the fall of 1835 volunteers gathered to join the original "old eighteen" in their defense of the small cannon, Sowell's blacksmith and gunsmith shop became a very busy place, fires were kept burning day and night. Sowell had improvised crude work benches where he and others repaired rifles, molded bullets, turned out lances and cannon balls, to be used in the fight for Texas independence.

     In March, of 1836 news of Santa Anna approaching Mexican army reached Gonzales, son John Newton Sowell Jr. joined Sam Houston’s volunteer army. Andrew accompanied his family and other settlers in the terrifying flight known in history as the "Runaway Scrape." Upon arriving safely at Matagorda Bay, the Sowell family boarded a small ship which sailed into the Gulf, not to return to Texas shores until after the Battle of San Jacinto. After a joyful reunion at Columbia with their sons Andrew and John Jr., the family resided for a while on the Steamship Yellowstone which also housed Mexican prisoners. It was said that John’s wife Rachel Sowell who was "very deaf" could not hear normal conversation and did not realize that seated near the head of the table where she ate each day was none other than Santa Anna. When she learned his identity "she rose from the table" and refused to eat another bite with..….that old scamp, taking her meals elsewhere until the Mexican general was sent ashore.

     John Sowell lived only a few months after the family returned to Gonzales in 1838. He died before July 30 of that year and was buried in the "old burying ground." Rachel died in the 1860's and was buried in the San Geronimo Cemetery. John Newton Sowell was a small but strong man, brave, energetic and sometimes ornery, but always a master of his craft. He carved his name in Texas history as the "Blacksmith of Gonzales", “Gunsmith of the Texas Revolution” and one of the "Old Eighteen" who to defend Gonzales against the Mexicans.1


  1. [S2702] Find A Grave. Database and images; accessed 15 Dec 2018, memorial page for John Sowell (1780-1838) at memorial page..., photograph of grave by Judy Rodgers, maintained by Gary Wayne Humphreys, originally created by Judy Rogers; citing Gonzales City Cemetery, Gonzales, Gonzales County, Texas.